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More Maguire misery sets back Southgate's progress

China Daily | Updated: 2020-10-16 09:03
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England's Tyrone Mings (center) and Kyle Walker contest a header with Denmark's Yussuf Poulsen during England's 1-0 loss in their UEFA Nations League Group A2 match at Wembley Stadium in London on Wednesday. [Photo/REUTERS]

But England boss backs defender and denies team has discipline problem

Harry Maguire's woes continued as the out-of-sorts Manchester United defender contributed to England's downfall at Wembley on Wednesday.

England played for an hour with 10 men in the 1-0 Nations League defeat to Denmark after Maguire, who was has been beset by problems on and off the pitch in recent months, was dismissed for a second booking. After the full-time whistle blew, Chelsea's Reece James also saw red for confronting the referee to set an unwelcome England record: the first time the team has had two players sent off in a match.

It was a landmark night for the right reasons for Christian Eriksen, who celebrated his 100th Denmark appearance with the winning penalty in the 35th minute.

The loss was a reality check for Gareth Southgate's Three Lions, who had their tails up following last week's 2-1 Nations League win over FIFA's top-ranked team, Belgium, and a 3-0 friendly triumph over Wales.

The loss also raised question marks over Southgate's handling of a litany of disciplinary issues inside the England camp.

Maguire's sending-off followed hot on the heels of Kyle Walker's dismissal in September in Iceland, where Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood were sent home after breaching coronavirus protocols by inviting local women back to their hotel.

Tammy Abraham, Jadon Sancho and Ben Chilwell missed last week's friendly against Wales after ignoring social-distancing rules to attend a party.

Maguire's poor recent form for club and country comes after he was given a suspended prison sentence of 21 months and 10 days after being found guilty of repeated bodily harm, attempted bribery and violence against public employees on the Greek island of Mykonos in August. The conviction was nullified after he appealed.

Southgate, though, denied England has a disciplinary problem.

"Of course there have been things that haven't been right. We have addressed them," he said."The reds for Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire here, one yellow justified, one not so sure.

"We've got to learn from it because if you go down to 10, historically that means we're out, especially if you're doing it for an hour.

"We talked all the time about discipline because we knew it cost us in other tournaments."

The England boss also backed under-fire Maguire, who became the world's most expensive defender when he signed for United last year for 80 million pounds ($104 million) from Leicester City.

"For me he is a top player, a massive part of what we do and he is going through a period where a lot of stick is coming his way," Southgate said. "He has our full support and I know his club will be the same. We have total belief in him.

"He has been getting all sorts for a while from people who should know better."

Southgate added of Maguire:"His profile has changed over the last couple of years because of the club he plays at. He is having one of those periods where things are going against him but things will turn."

England captain Harry Kane also played down suggestions England's temperament is suspect.

"I don't think tempers frayed,"Kane said. "There were some decisions that didn't quite go our way today but that's football.

"I don't think we have discipline issues. It was a night when we put everything on the line. I can't fault the boys in that aspect."

Meanwhile, Kane's former Tottenham Hotspur teammate Christian Eriksen was thrilled after scoring his 34th international goal in his 100th game for Denmark at a stadium he called home for a couple of years during his Spurs career.

"It was very special," said the Inter Milan midfielder, who netted from the penalty spot after Walker had fouled Thomas Delaney. "It's not as fun to play at an empty Wembley compared to a full Wembley I'm used to."

Southgate again sent out a cautious starting XI with two holding midfielders and three centerbacks, while in-form Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish was left out.

The England manager defended his selection, saying: "I was very proud of the performance. I thought we were excellent with 11 men and causing them all sorts of problems down our right-hand side. The sending-off alters everything and the penalty. I don't see the foul at all."

The result leaves Group A2 wide open heading into the last two rounds of matches next month. England dropped from first to third place behind Denmark and Belgium, which tops the group after winning 2-1 in Iceland.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice for Belgium. The Inter striker opened the scoring inside 10 minutes and added a penalty before halftime after Birkir Saevarsson's equalizer.

AP/AFP contributed to this story.

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